2018 IW Winners

Tradeswoman of the Year - Murillo

Susan Temple

Susan Temple

“You’re your own advocate and your own worst enemy.”

That’s one morsel of advice Susan Temple dispenses to her three teenaged daughters or to any young woman considering a career in the skilled trades.

The utility services representative for Union Gas in Thunder Bay brings a lunch pail-mentality to her job as a gas fitter, the only known female in that position in the region.

Describes by her nominators as a passionate advocate for women in the trades who thrives in settings where she can share her life journey, Temple is a frequent speaker at skilled trades events at high schools and career camps in the Thunder Bay area.

Having a women talk to high school and elementary school-aged kids about a career in the trades “changes the mindset,” said Temple.

“You can do anything you want. You have to put your mind to it. You will meet some resistance but if it’s what you want, don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do it.”

A career in the trades didn’t seem to be in the cards for Temple.

After graduating from high school in Thunder Bay, she spent two years studying travel and tourism until, on a whim, she applied at the Abitibi Consolidated paper mill in Thunder Bay, where her mother worked in the office, and was accepted.

By the time the mill was shuttered in 2007, Temple was a heavy equipment operator, becoming particularly adept with the Pettibone loader in the mill’s wood yard.

After a short stint in the maintenance department at Wasaya Airlines, it was on to Union Gas as a seasonal labourer.

Shovel in hand, Temple spent many hours in the utility’s construction division installing services for new gas lines while working toward her gas fitter certification.

If she encountered any resistance working in a male-dominated field, the admittedly stubborn and single-minded Temple was largely oblivious to it.

“You have to have a few scales on your back,” she said. “I grew up on a farm (in O’Connor Township) with three brothers and I can probably out-swear most truckers. “Realistically, you don’t get accepted as quickly. You have to work a little harder to prove yourself.”

As a utility services rep, her day-to-day routine varies from changing meters to responding to emergency calls.

Although her day of service calls is planned out, what’s rewarding is the degree of independence.

“My office is my truck. At 40 below it kinda sucks but I’m in control of my day and how it turns out.”

How people perceive or accept her on the job site or a service call means nothing to Temple. Yet some Union Gas customers will specifically ask for her.

Union Gas is promoting a culture of diversity to attract more women to various roles through its Women in Operations program.

Though pleased to see more diversity in her field, Temple draws no distinction when it comes to gender.

“Honestly, I think the biggest problem is your own thought process.

“I go to work every day, do my job, so you do you. What makes me any different? I think it’s a personal mindset. I don’t see anything special, if it’s what you want to do.”

Her only immediate career goal is to upgrade her qualifications, going from Fitter 2 to Fitter 1, certifying her to work on any systems with a firing rate in excess of 400,000 BTU.